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February 14, 2014

Fantasy Players to Avoid

Third Basemen

by BP Fantasy Staff

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To read the previous articles in this series, click below:

I'm out of hot corner puns, so… just maybe don't draft these players.

Nick Castellanos, Tigers
If there's been a running theme in my avoid picks for this series it's that I'm not a big advocate of paying retail for rookie hitters, even in the face of what we've seen recently with the Trouts, Harpers, and Machados of the world. Machados? Machadoes? Let's call the whole thing off. Even in a high-end realistic scenario in which Castellanos lives up to his potential right away and stays in the lineup all season, we shouldn't be expecting more than around a .275 average and 15 homers—which would be a great rookie campaign for him. But the potential pitfalls are numerous. The easy pitfall is that he struggles at the plate, but possibly the more important one is that he struggles in the field. Castellanos was no sure bet to stay at third base long-term before the Prince Fielder signing shifted Miguel Cabrera to his "natural" position. Now that he's back, he's going to have to prove he doesn't deserve a second tour of duty in left field, where he'd have more competition for full-time at bats. —Bret Sayre

Todd Frazier - Cincinnati Reds
Consistent power is Frazier’s calling card, as he’s posted back to back 19-home-run seasons. His value varied wildly in those years though, as he hit .273 in 2012 and .234 in 2013. That can be blamed on his batting average on balls in play a bit, as he went from .316 to .269, but that doesn’t mean it can be blamed solely on bad luck. In 2012, Frazier had a fly-ball rate just south of 45 percent so a league average (or slightly above) BABIP would seem to indicate good fortune. While he did drop his fly-ball clip to under 40 percent for 2013, he also lost four percentage points off his line-drive rate, which means he wasn’t making the hard contact he was previously. The difference in production meant that Frazier went from being 21 percent above league average in 2012 to precisely league average in 2013. This isn’t to say Frazier can’t rebound, but with 20 home runs appearing to be an upper limit, the upside isn’t there to pop him over some other options, especially with his RBI opportunities taking a hit now that Shin-Soo Choo is in Texas. —Craig Goldstein

Chase Headley, Padres
Headley does a lot of things well. He has seasons in which he hits over .280. He has seasons in which he hits 30-plus homers. He has seasons in which he steals 15-plus bases. He's a nice, well-rounded player. The problem with evaluating Headley is that one tends to hope he’ll eventually put all of those numbers together in a single, MVP-caliber campaign—but that’s quite unlikely to be the case. Headley is entering his age-30 season, still plays in the worst offensive ballpark in the majors, bats in the middle of a bad lineup, and saw his average fall off a cliff last season despite a favorable BABIP. His days of swiping double-digit bags could very well be over, and it should be apparent that his 31-homer season is the outlier—not his multiple 10-13-homer campaigns. Again, this is a well-rounded player who should see a rebound in average from 2014, but he's not the breakout candidate many predict, even if he does end up being dealt to the Yankees in June. He's a good, unspectacular option for 2014, so "avoid" is harsh, but I certainly wouldn't reach for him or project him to break out. —Ben Carsley

Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays
I’m 100 percent guilty of over-hyping Lawrie based on 43 games in 2011. That was my first practical lesson is small sample sizes on the fantasy beat, so, naturally, I now have a hard time trusting most tiny samples, especially when they are presented to me in toothpick form at a local grocery. In two seasons since his rookie year, Lawrie has collected 22 home runs and 22 stolen bases. That’s the kind of production I expected him to provide in one season, not two. Lawrie is still capable of giving us a 15/15 season, but he needs to stay on the field first. He’s been on the DL three times since his big-league debut, appearing in 107 games in 2013 after playing in 125 the year before. Maybe my sights were set too high following his call-up to the show, but Lawrie isn’t someone I can trust to man the hot corner, even if he comes at a discount. If he does stay healthy, I'll no longer feel like I'm missing out. —Alex Kantecki

Manny Machado, Orioles
I’m actually a huge Machado fan, but I worry that the 2B-into-HR idea is being overplayed while the serious knee surgery is being underplayed. I think the latter is going to lop off some of the MLB-best 667 at-bats that he had last year, and if the former doesn’t come (and there’s no guarantee it will), then the numbers just aren’t there for superstardom in 2014. The knee is also a concern for stolen bases, as if the 6-for-13 success (and I hesitate to use that word) rate weren’t worrisome enough. I really want to be wrong here and without the knee issue, I’d be all-in on Machado. As it stands, I’m looking at 2015 as the potential breakout season. —Paul Sporer

Mike Moustakas, Royals
There isn’t enough power here to justify carrying such a poor batting average, particularly in mixed leagues. While Moustakas’ infield-fly-ball rates have improved since his rookie campaign in 2011, his 16.6 perecnt rate is still way too high for a hitter who is going to need to hit home runs to justify a spot on your fantasy roster. The presence of Danny Valencia isn’t going to help either. Moustakas might not find himself in a strict platoon, but Valencia’s strong bat against lefties is going to keep him in the line-up against southpaws more often than not. There’s a place for Moustakas in deeper mixed and -only leagues, but paying for what was once his ceiling isn’t a shrewd idea. —Mike Gianella

Pablo Sandoval, Giants
Heading into his age-27 season and having reportedly lost 40 pounds this offseason, Sandoval has all the makings of a popular spring training helium guy and bounce-back candidate. But he’ll be among the risker options around, and unless he falls significantly in your draft, it’s tough to make a case that he’ll be worth the gamble.

Sandoval's been two very different players in his five full-ish seasons in the majors. In 2009 and 2011, he was a guy who posted HR/FB rates that spiked into the mid-teens, while his other three seasons that number’s been planted firmly in the single digits. Given hamate surgeries on each wrist since that last double-digit showing, a home park that is the worst in the Majors for left-handed power (and fifth worst for right-handed power), and the earlier physical peak heavy players tend to experience, it’s much more likely than not that his days as a 20-home-run hitter are done. The other key issue as alluded to above is health. He’s hit the DL in each of the past three seasons with a wide array of upper and lower body injuries, and there’s just a much greater built-in risk of more injuries to come for him given body type and history. Sandoval’s currently going 13th among third basemen at the end of the 12th round. But if I miss out on a top-tier third baseman and find myself looking for one at that point in a draft, I’ll be much more inclined to make an upside play with at least a chance of returning positive value on my investment. With Sandoval you’re just hoping he stays healthy long enough for you to break even, and that’s a poor investment of draft-day resources. —Wilson Karaman

Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
This is a bit of a soft avoid, as it has been termed around these parts. Zimmerman remains a valuable play at third when he’s healthy. There are some red flags, though. The pop-up rate has increased the past two years, and so has the strikeout clip. Neither of those numbers is my primary cause for concern, however. Zimmerman has a long list of injuries on his page and they are the types of injuries that tend to stay with a player as his career goes along. Yes, Zimmerman has played 145-plus games in each of the past two seasons but given the other options at third, I’m more than willing to take a pass on Zimmerman and let another owner find out how many games he’ll play this year. —Mauricio Rubio

BP Fantasy Staff is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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